Smart Cities and Smart Transit: these forward-leaping designs open up a world of possibilities. One often described in science-fiction. And the reality isn’t too far behind. The Internet of Things is opening up new smart use cases every day and the advancements in APIs and interoperability make our lives more connected to our surroundings. One that takes better care of its citizens and climate. Smart cities and smart transit aim to improve quality of life, enhance sustainability, security, efficiency, convenience, and economic competitiveness. But how do you build (or contribute to) these public-private networks? What challenges arise and what guidance is needed when implementing solutions?
Use cases and challenges for smart cities and transit
The list of initiatives and challenges related to smart city and smart transit design is endless. Decision-makers need to be able to make sound judgments based on due diligence that takes into regard a multidisciplinary spectrum of citizens, economies, climate, and government actors.
If ethical design principles are applied correctly, the evolution of smart cities and smart transit – enabled, powered, and integrated by digital technologies – is set to be one of the major accomplishments of our society in the 21st century.
Some common smart design use cases include:
- Provide easier access to public services by making them digitally accessible
- Traffic flow optimization using signal controllers and object recognition
- Trash collection optimization by using garbage sensors and route planning
- Streamline internal operations through integration across hybrid systems
- Optimal energy distribution using smart utility meters
- Improve air quality by implementing policies and regulations based on air quality and energy utilization data.
Going from separate heterogeneous legacy systems to a fully integrated and connected Smart City or Smart Transit concept brings up significant integration challenges. On the road to digital transformation, these four key challenges must be overcome in order to have a seamless intertwining of technology and society.
- Integration of legacy systems
Heterogenous systems are not easily integrated, the value of connected information is not realized digitally.
- Volume and velocity of data
Massive volumes and velocity of intermittent data streams from a variety of legacy and new devices can quickly overwhelm existing IT infrastructure.
Data is coming from various types of sensors, connected devices and existing data systems, each using various standards that are often not interoperable.
- Control over data flow
Limited control over data movement to ensure data quality, discovery, usability, and security.
How to get started with Smart City or Smart Transit design
The secret is to not start from scratch. Existing back-end systems, infrastructure and devices are not easily replaced, nor do they need to be.
The first three steps are to 1) create an overall vision, 2) create a smart city framework and 3) implement a smart city platform.
A Smart City Framework is a decision methodology that gives you the overview and the flexibility to effectively address the challenges and needs of the environment you aim to design. A smart city framework assists you in answering “how” questions with regards to processes, technologies, control, execution, maintenance, and shaping business models.
A Smart City Platform gives you the ability to combine and integrate cutting-edge technology – such as artificial intelligence, edge computing, Internet of Things (IoT) – with existing legacy systems. This brings down costs, time to solution, and provides flexibility to adapt quickly and incrementally to new smart or digital priorities.
What to look for in Smart City Platforms
A smart city platform needs to provide you with agility. It should be easy to adopt various types of sensors / devices, while remaining operational and maintain the existing infrastructure. It should allow you to integrate streaming data with existing legacy data, and create valuable insights via analytics, and easy ways for citizens and visitors to consume services. To accomplish all the above the platform needs to support the following components:
APIs and API Management
APIs are foundational for digital business models and smart technology. Think of an API as a Digital Connector for systems, applications, devices. It is a service that can be called over the intra or internet. To manage, secure, monitor and optionally monetize your API you will require an API Manager with an API gateway.
Identity & Access Management
As cities increasingly expose digital services and devices via APIs, interactions should be secure. An Identity & Access Management platform (IAM) helps you to federate and authenticate identities to ensure privacy and authorization of access.
Micro-Services & Service Orchestration
As the demand for personalized data services and operations increases, there is a need for a further decoupling (decomposition) of services. In addition, the ability to handle mass requests stimulates the microservices architectural approach in IT.
Open standards enable stacking of architecture and products of different origins and reuse of components on a scale, and smart cities can benefit from this. Open standards are key ingredients to make ongoing adjustments easier. Proprietary solutions with the associated vendor-lock-in are inflexible, and it has been shown that proprietary vendors are slow to adapt to open standards. For proof of success of open standards, think about the success of HTML, XML that enabled the internet. Now JSON, OAUTH, GraphQL, OpenAPI in the API space. SAML, OpenID in the Identity Authentication space. Kubernetes, Docker for virtual infrastructure. MQTT, and AMPQ for IoT connectivity.
Cloud 1st Approach
Cloud enables speed. SaaS, PaaS, and Infrastructure-as-a-Service are crucial for unlocking one of the major sources of differentiation for true breakthrough innovators, which is speed. Fast innovators have long demonstrated that shortening innovation and product development cycles and reducing time to market can be a powerful source of competitive advantage. Besides speed, ‘Cloud’ based offerings are a key ingredient that will help free up capital, shift risk, and make sure that key IT resources focus on core business.
Smart Cities & Smart Transit, WSO2 and Yenlo
Yenlo worked with WSO2 to develop Yenlo Connext, an integration platform for smart cities and smart transit solutions. This integration platform is offered as a service (iPaaS), and therefore does not require your IT organization to manage the infrastructure maintenance, monitoring, or hosting.
Rather, the full range of capabilities needed for you Smart City Platform are available to you 24/7. Using this Platform-as-a-Service, you can connect your (IoT) devices, analyze and visualize information, connect legacy systems, and secure your services and backend systems. If you prefer, Yenlo consultants can help you design and develop your smart city solutions on top of this platform.